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Did George W. Bush's inaugural address set an effective agenda for his second term? Secretary of state-designate Condoleezza Rice faced two days of Senate confirmation hearings. Democrats ponder picking a new national chairman.

Aired January 22, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Ramesh Ponnuru of "The National Review." Our guest is Democratic governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. He joins us from snowbound Philadelphia. Thank you for coming in, Ed.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Our pleasure, Mark.

SHIELDS: OK. President George W. Bush laid out the second term theme in his inaugural address.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.

It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation, the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right.


SHIELDS: Briefly, the president outlined his own Democratic -- his own domestic agenda -- excuse me.


BUSH: In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act and the GI Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time.


SHIELDS: He also spoke to calls for him to be a uniter. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes. And I will strive in good faith to heal them.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, did the president's address set an effective agenda for his second term?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, not really, because the thing he's going to be dealing with on a day-to-day business, domestic policy, he just took care of in one paragraph. This was a very different kind of inaugural address. Usually, the inaugural is treated like a drama critic. You know, was the style good? Did -- was it inspirational? People on this one were saying, Well, what was he talking about? Did he really mean what he said, that we are going to eliminate tyranny from the face of the world? We're going to go all over Africa. We're going to go to our friends in Pakistan, in China, and -- and get them to be democrats? Well, that would be lunatic! We don't have the power. We don't have the authority.

I think -- I think he is being interpreted as saying things he didn't mean to say. I think all that he meant to say, at least to people I talk to, is that it was a defense of why we're in Iraq, an attempt to defense (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraq, and perhaps some other places, all in the Middle East. But it certainly is not as expansive as some of the media interpretations were.

SHIELDS: Ramesh, obviously, some of the interpretation are just people who took it at its face value. The White House felt necessary on Friday to say, No, no. This is what we really meant. These were general principles, not specific policies.

RAMESH PONNURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Right. I think that this may be a case where the president was a little bit too eloquent for his own good because if you look closely, every soaring statement in his speech comes attached to a prudent qualifier. But it's the soaring statements that stick in your mind. So of course, all of his aides spent the weekend telling papers, Well, you know, you got to remember that there's -- there are these qualifiers attached.

The other thing about this administration is it doesn't speak with one voice or act with one purpose on foreign policy. So you sometimes get the sense that these speeches are as much acts of communication between the president and his own administration as between the administration and the public.

SHIELDS: Ed Rendell, if free and fair elections were held today in Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, it's almost certain that pro-United States or friendly to the United States administrations, regimes, would fall and be replaced by democratically elected unfriendly. I mean, is that what the president you heard was calling for?

RENDELL: Well, it was a confusing speech. First of all, it was the first inaugural speech that I can remember in a long time that really basically ignored domestic policy, except for Social Security. And domestic policy's on the mind of people in America's home towns. They want to know about health care. They want to know about our economy and what we're going to do. They want to know about education. And that was all basically ignored by the president.

In terms of the goals itself -- we all agree with the goals the president set. I remember when I was a young man, there was the domino theory. We had to keep this country safe for democracy because it was good for United States interests. But the problem with the president's speech is are we going to back it up?

For example, if we're going to talk about people not living at barely above subsistence, are we going to crack down? Are we going to be aggressive in trade policy to crack down against China and places like that, that have workers making $1 an hour and working under substandard conditions? That's what's killing America's economy, particularly our manufacturing economy.

So the question is, what does the president intend to do to back up what I thought were very well stated, lofty goals?

NOVAK: You know, I think...

SHIELDS: Al -- yes?

NOVAK: I think, Mark, that Governor Rendell has -- the State of the Union -- has the inaugural address mixed up with the State of the Union speech because you don't -- you don't lay out specific things in an inaugural address. You know, he says he doesn't remember -- Ed says he doesn't remember a State of the Union -- an inaugural address -- I'm sorry...


AL HUNT, CAPITAL GANG: No, go ahead. Go ahead.


SHIELDS: Al just joined us, you know? He's...


NOVAK: But President Kennedy in 1961 says, "We'll pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardships (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to assure the survival of liberty." He didn't mean exactly that, but it was a -- it was a broad general thing. And it wasn't on domestic -- I'm sorry, Al.

HUNT: No, that's OK, Bob. Look, I agree with most of what everybody just said. It was, to begin with, a really eloquent address. It was beautifully -- beautifully written and pretty well delivered. And the question is, Did he really mean that rhetoric -- even with the qualifiers, did he mean it -- or not?

"The Washington Post" this morning had a high White House aide saying, Hey, we're not going to play the freedom card in China or Egypt or Pakistan. Heaven help us. We're not going to do that. And let's not forget that Bush 43's first inaugural address, the centerpieces were combating poverty and injustice, which were not the hallmarks of the first Bush term.

But if he does really mean it, Bob, if the neocons' ecstasy of the last couple days is justified, then what's missing is any call for sacrifice because this'll be a very noble and a very bold endeavor and a very costly one.

SHIELDS: The difference, Bob -- we did have a draft in 1961. When John Kennedy said that, it was a commitment, you know, that touched everybody. I mean, let's be very...


HUNT: ... Ask not what Americans can -- what Americans...

SHIELDS: That's right.


SHIELDS: I mean, the only people who are touched by this present policy are those who are in uniform and their families and their loved ones.

PONNURU: That's right. Well, I think that, you know, it was an aspirational speech, you know, and I -- I think Bob's right. You know, when -- when Reagan denounced the "evil empire," said we weren't going to have peaceful coexistence, that didn't mean the next day, he's going to try to use military force to overthrow the Soviet regime. But it was a declaration of a goal.

And I think it's going to matter because the next time the president meets with the Chinese leadership, if he doesn't press them on these issues, those words are going to be flung back in his face.

HUNT: You're right about that. And also, what I find fascinating is the neocons on Thursday morning were depressed because most of Condoleezza Rice's appointments at the State Department could have been made by -- by Secretary Holbrooke in a Kerry administration. And they were ecstatic after that speech. Now, which is the reality?

SHIELDS: Last word, Al Hunt. Ed Rendell and THE GANG will be back with the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Secretary of state-designate Condoleezza Rice faced two days of Senate confirmation hearings.


SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I personally believe -- this is my personal view -- that your loyalty to the mission you were given to sell this war overwhelmed your respect for the truth. CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: We can have this discussion in any way that you would like, but I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity.


SHIELDS: Senator Barbara Boxer was joined by one other Democrat in opposition.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I choose to vote my concerns, not to overlook them. I choose to vote my gut, not custom.


SHIELDS: Other Democrats followed the course set by the committee's ranking Democrat.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I'm going to vote for you, but I must tell you it's with a little bit of frustration and some reservation.


SHIELDS: Democrats forced postponement of the vote until next Wednesday.

Al Hunt, were the questions to Dr. Condoleezza Rice from Democrats excessively harsh?

HUNT: Oh, of course not. These are adult politicians. They're cabinet members. There's almost no such thing as an excessively harsh question. Look, the fact is that, intentionally or not, Americans and the world were deceived on Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was not linked to al Qaeda or to 9/11. And heaven help us if we reach the point -- and those, by the way, were the rationales for sending American men and women into harm's way. Heaven help us if we reach the point where you can't grill a prospective cabinet member on issues of that import. Condoleezza Rice largely stonewalled, but she will be confirmed easily -- should be. But I don't think the questioning was improper at all.

SHIELDS: Ed Rendell, your take on it, from the distance of perspective of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania? Did you think it was too tough?

RENDELL: Well, I think Al's right to the extent that the Constitution says the Senate has the right to advise and consent. They have the right to express their concerns, and every American has concerns about the Bush foreign policy, even many people who voted for the president in the last election. So I don't think the questions were necessarily too harsh. I would, if I were a senator, vote for Condoleezza Rice because she's clearly got the background, the qualifications, the training, the experience to be secretary of state. And I think that's the seminal issue.

But her performance at times reminded me of Bob Marley's song, "Don't worry, be happy," just take our word for it, everything's going well. We have trained the right number of Iraqis. We can turn this over to them after the election. It's just Fantasy Island. They're telling us things that just aren't true. And if they don't confront the true realities of Iraq, who will, and what's going to happen?

SHIELDS: Ramesh, one of the interesting things -- Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat, one of the more dramatic exchanges, said, How many security forces have they trained in Iraq? She said 120,000. I just came back from there, there's only 4,000, said Joe Biden. And yet he voted for her. I mean, he's sort of all hat and no cattle, it struck me, on his position of opposition.

PONNURU: Well, I'm sure his frustration has been duly noted by Condoleezza Rice and the White House.

Look, I agree with Al. You know, it's perfectly appropriate that Condi Rice get asked some tough questions. I think she gave as good as she got. I do wonder -- I was a little bit surprised that the Democrats would sort of allow Senator Boxer and Kerry to really sort of sound such a sour note to no apparent point. I mean, she is, as you said, going to get confirmed. There are bigger and more promising targets in this administration. You wonder whether this really serves the Democrats' interests.

SHIELDS: That's a good question, but Barbara Boxer -- I mean, people have to understand, every Senate has the maverick, I mean, the person who really doesn't care about being the most popular person, whether it's John McCain or Howard Metzenbaum or Jesse Helms. And I think Barbara Boxer is -- you know, unlike her colleague from California, Dianne Feinstein, is willing to make herself unpopular sometimes to raise questions like this.

NOVAK: Well, with all due respect to my friend, Al, I thought his answer was disingenuous because he -- he said that -- that they have a right to question foreign policy and how she (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Of course they have a perfect right. But the -- many of the senators went right up to the edge in really questioning her personal integrity. And Senator Boxer, who is really a disgrace, went over the edge. I mean, she just -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what everybody has to have one. If she were -- I guess Joe McCarthy was OK. I guess some of the right-wingers that you have been blistering for 20 years were OK. But as a matter of fact, she is a disgrace. She went over the edge. And John Kerry sitting there, looking so uncomfortable, and makes the decision -- he says, I didn't know what I was going to do when I came here today, and I just was -- he was so swept away by the demagoguery of Barbara Boxer that he had to...

SHIELDS: For somebody who sat here for 20 years and defending Jesse Helms and -- you're not going to call Barbara Boxer a disgrace and get away with it! And I'll say this, Bob Novak, to you right now, just so you understand clearly. Clearly! Clearly. That she has every right to ask those questions. Condoleezza Rice is an architect, an advocate and an apologist for a failed policy... NOVAK: She questions...

SHIELDS: ... that has alienated and isolated the United States and killed thousands of Americans and Iraqis!

NOVAK: Let me say -- let me say this, Mark, that if you -- if you are taking that position, don't give me anything about, We got to be nicer to each other, we got to have bipartisan. If you defend Barbara Boxer, the game is open!

HUNT: Wait a minute, Bob. No, I don't quite agree with that because -- I mean, in the old days, Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan went at each other just as hard, and yet after 6:00, they said they could still be civil and talk...

NOVAK: Oh, no!


HUNT: I don't -- I don't agree that you can't be tough and also...


NOVAK: Well, she was more than tough.

SHIELDS: Ed Rendell...


SHIELDS: Ed Rendell, bring some sense to this discussion of Novak's.

RENDELL: Well, you know, Bob, I think Barbara Boxer or any Democrat has the right to question a policy that has been disingenuous with the American people. Clearly, what we were told about why we were going to war wasn't true, and that's fair game. Did Barbara Boxer do it in a style that I would agree with? No. Did we get away for a moment from the traditional, Is this nominee qualified? Yes, we got away from it, but most Democrats did what Senator Biden correctly did.

It was a frustrating performance, not just for politicians, Bob, but for Americans. If you had a son or a daughter who was over there in Iraq fighting, you'd have been frustrated by that performance, too. It was all just, Trust us, don't worry. We may have misled you in the past. I think it was fair game. Again, I would have voted to confirm her. She's very well qualified. She has the president's ear. She's going to be speaking for the president, and foreign leaders are going to know that, and that will make her more effective.

But what is the foreign policy? Where do we go from here? Richard Lugar, a good Republican, was just as frustrated about the administration's performance in Iraq as Senator Boxer was. And you know, obviously, he said it in a different way. But don't stifle debate by saying we all have to get along. We do have to get along, but the Democrats -- I believe we've got an obligation to try to cooperate with the president when cooperation is the right way, but we also have an obligation to tell the country what we think, and if a policy's not working, to point out why it's not working. That's what the Republicans did when Bill Clinton was president.

SHIELDS: Last word, Ed Rendell. Next on THE CAPITAL GANG: Just exactly where are the Democrats going?


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Reaction to the president's second term came from the Senate's second most senior Democrat.


SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I reject that this election was a mandate for the president to continue our involvement in Iraq.

I also reject the proposals of the administration to basically dismember the Social Security program.


SHIELDS: The Democratic floor leader took a more conciliatory position.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: We want to work with the president. I've told him that. And I'm confident we can work together on lots of different issues.


SHIELDS: Meanwhile, the former governor of Vermont appeared to take the lead in the race to head the Democratic National Committee.


HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), FORMER GOVERNOR: I speak my mind, and that is what I think Democrats have to do to win. I don't think Democrats need to jump around on the political spectrum to win.


SHIELDS: Ramesh, will Democrats follow the course set by Senator Kennedy, Senator Reid or another course?

PONNURU: Well, I think a lot of Democrats are going to sound like Senator Reid, but I think that Senator Kennedy expressed what a lot of them think and what a lot of them are going to actually do. And I think -- you know, look at Howard Dean. I don't think that people are backing Howard Dean for the DNC race because they want to make the Democrats go left. A lot of them are backing him because they want money. They think he's a good fund-raiser, and these cash- strapped state parties think he's going to be an ATM machine for them.

But the result of making him the chairman is going to be to move the party left in the public mind.

SHIELDS: Ed Rendell, your own sense, as a former national chairman, as the governor of a big and important state, a blue state -- your assessment of where the party is right now.

RENDELL: Well, I think the party's in a little bit of a quandary. A recent poll showed that 75 percent of Americans want the Democrats in Congress to cooperate with the president, and we should. But that has to come from the president reaching out. Let's take health care as an example. The president wants health care security accounts. That's fine. I don't think they'll work for ordinary Americans, but let's give the president that option. But at the same time, let's ask the president to put more money into the Children's Health Insurance Program, so every child in America can be guaranteed health care. That's a minimum that we should ask as a party. Let's try to forge that alliance on mutual issues of concern.

And I think we need to do that. If all we do in Congress is trash and burn everything the president says, I think we'll pay for it. And we've got to stop this idea -- the election finishes in November, and the next campaign begins in January. The American people, the people in Pennsylvania and Kansas and Nebraska and Arkansas -- they're sick of it. They're sick of it. We've got to try to work together. And we have some challenges in selecting our new party chair, as well.

SHIELDS: OK. Al Hunt, the fact is that -- it's hard to make an argument that there's a mandate for Social Security reform when the country, a third of George Bush's own party, Republicans, are against private accounts and half the American people are.

HUNT: Well, Mark, in all due respect to you, I think it's a false choice. It's kind of like asking Ed Rendell who he wants to win the Super Bowl, the Steelers or the Eagles. I think -- I think that, basically, what the Democrats have to do is they have to steal a leap (ph) from the Republicans in the '70s and '90s. And it's not enough just to say no, they have to offer alternatives. And I think that's not an ideological issue. I don't think it was a mandate for Iraq. I don't think anyone thinks that. I think Social Security right now, the president is on the defensive and in trouble. But if the Democrats are just negative, then I think they're going to have -- they're not going to win these arguments, though you got to love Harry Reid's hat.

SHIELDS: Say what you want, Bob Novak, Howard Dean -- Howard Dean won...


SHIELDS: ... won the endorsement -- won the endorsement this week of...

NOVAK: Of the Florida... SHIELDS: Yes, of Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, Utah.

NOVAK: When you have a political party that is following the abrasive, nasty tone of my friend, Teddy Kennedy, and when they are saying that our choice is Howard Dean to be chairman -- the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll showed the approval rating for -- for Howard Dean among Democrats was down to 27 percent! Rank-and-file Democrats don't want any part of him! But the Democratic politicians are so bitter and so vicious toward George Bush that they just want somebody to trash and burn! And it -- I would say that if -- if you're a Republican, you ought to be happy that they're following Kennedy and Dean.

SHIELDS: Well, I want -- I want Ed Rendell to comment on that. But Ed, I also want to get from you -- and I just want to establish my dissent from Bob Novak. I mean, for goodness sakes. I mean, a guy that embraces Tom DeLay and accuses Ted Kennedy of being negative!


SHIELDS: But I have to ask you this, Ed. You're the governor of Pennsylvania. Yes, you were mayor of Philadelphia. You're an Eagles ticket holder. But I mean, this is a magic moment for the Keystone State. Are you a big enough man to root for the Steelers, or are you just going to write off Allegheny County?

RENDELL: No, no.

SHIELDS: Pittsburgh! Doesn't matter to you in 2006?

RENDELL: Let's be clear. I'm rooting for the Steelers and the Eagles tomorrow.


RENDELL: The Super Bowl goes through Pennsylvania. But if they both wind up in the Super Bowl, I've been an Eagles fan for 40 years, and I'd be quite a political panderer if I said I'm going to be neutral. And if you were from Pittsburgh, would you believe I was going to be neutral anyway? So I'm for the Steelers and Eagles, and if they both win, go Eagles.

And let me just say one other thing. I think Ramesh had it right on the issue of Howard Dean. It's the perception that he is way out on the left. Howard Dean was a very, very moderate and fiscally conservative governor of Vermont, but because of things -- some of the things he said, perception has grown that he's way out on the left. The poll that Bob Novak quoted I saw, and that distresses me. We have to take that stuff into consideration. And I think it's very, very important.

I would like to see us go back to the old system that I served under and Roy Romer and Senator Dodd served under, a general chair, a senior party person like a Leon Panetta or a Bob Kerrey or George Mitchell as our spokesperson, and a national chair who runs the party, does the mechanics, you know, keys us into the Internet, things like that. And we've got to present an image -- and Al said it right. We have to present our agenda.

What's our agenda? Our agenda is curing disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, that that's more important than massive tax cuts. And if we had a Marshall plan to cure disease in the next 10 years and devoted a lot of money to it, we might make tremendous progress.

We got to have a positive agenda like that if we're going to get back the confidence of the American people.

SHIELDS: Ed Rendell, thank you. I think you, by name, agreed with Al, with Ramesh, and I think even with me, Novak being the only exception.


SHIELDS: So we thank you for joining with us from snowy Pennsylvania. We'll be right back after these important messages.



SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG.

This week Kate O'Beirne was on the beat in Washington reporting on the inauguration of President George W. Bush.


O'BEIRNE (voice-over): We witnessed a rare occurrence in our country's 55 inaugurations on Thursday. Our 43rd president is only the 16th one to take the oath of office for the second time. A common quadrennial occurrence is the endless commentary about inhospitable weather. It's January. It's cold. Move on.

Presidential inaugurations are an important part of America's civic life and ordinary citizens welcome the pageantry and tradition. If you are simply willing to bundle up and wait on a few lines, you can be part of history.

Surrounded by former presidents, and who knows, maybe a future president or two who dream of being welcomed by the traditional tribute Hail to the Chief. The melody, by the way, is an old Celtic tune honoring another chieftain.

Lawmakers came together to honor the man and the moment but, above all, the office. A gravely ill chief justice of the United States did his duty; beautiful white coat on Laura Bush.

In 2001, a young president couldn't know what lay ahead. No president can when taking office. Embarking on his second term, President Bush acknowledged this.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our duties are defined not by the words I use but by the history we have seen together.

O'BEIRNE: The rhetoric soared. Idealism about the force of liberty and America's solidarity with those yearning to be free marked the day. The future is unknowable but our historic commitment to democratic principles endures.

We love a parade, the stirring march to music, the spirited young marchers. Again, our military did us proud. The president enjoyed the ceremony and celebration.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, in wartime was the celebration of this order or magnitude appropriate?

HUNT: Well, I think Kate's piece was almost as well written as the president's speech I would say, Mark. Yes, I don't have any problems with a celebration like this. I don't like the soft money coming back or $250,000 contributors but I think it was perfectly appropriate to have an inaugural.

I'll tell you what bothered me though. What bothered me was the security. I went to one party, Mark, and we went for ten blocks. It took us an hour and sometimes Washington...

SHIELDS: Because of security?

HUNT: Right. Washington sometimes last Thursday looked more like the Moscow of old than the Citadel of freedom.

SHIELDS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) boy, Ramesh, I'm sorry.

PONNURU: It's all right. Oh, I think -- I think that, you know, there's always suffering and tragedy and challenges going on in the world and if you didn't celebrate it on such occasions you'd never celebrate. And a peaceful transfer of power with the opposition party standing there to sort of formally bless the event is something worth celebrating.

NOVAK: You know it isn't...

PONNURU: Not a transfer of powers.

NOVAK: Exactly. Both (UNINTELLIGIBLE) exactly right, no point to suspend the inauguration because of things happening in the world. But I just have to say that this partisanship by the Democrats is just -- and people like you, Mark, can't appreciate just how nasty they are that they were all over the television, all over the town in the last week saying it's terrible to have this inauguration. Let it alone.

And what I'm really sick of are the protesters. They just are a lot of punks and it's none of their business and it isn't free speech. It's just nastiness and I'm sick of it.

SHIELDS: I am sorry, Bob, but I mean dissent is the lifeblood of democracy, dissent and debate. NOVAK: That isn't dissent and debate. It is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: It is dissent and debate. We have a policy of war, which two-fifths of the American people now think is the right decision, was the right decision originally. Three-fifths of them oppose it. And the idea that we've got to still all debate is somehow -- I don't know what you think of. For a man who loves civil liberties you're an autocrat.

NOVAK: They had -- the people who didn't like that war had a very good chance to protest on November 2. They didn't protest it.

HUNT: Can I ask you a question about is there such a thing as a partisan Republican in this town?

NOVAK: They're nothing like these Democrats. They're so nasty. I can tell you that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: So, the partisanship is -- the partisanship is one sided.

NOVAK: Pretty much so.

HUNT: Is it really? That's interesting. That's interesting, OK.

SHIELDS: It's a different Washington that you live in.

Coming up on THE CAPITAL GANG classic, Bill Clinton's second inaugural address eight years ago.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Eight years ago, President Bill Clinton delivered his second inaugural address.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As times change so government must change. We need a new government for a new century humble enough not to try to solve all our problems for us but strong enough to give us the tools to solve our problems for ourselves.


SHIELDS: THE CAPITAL GANG graded the Clinton speech that inauguration day of 1997.


NOVAK: It was a C-minus. If you didn't go to church on Sunday, this was the substitute because there was a lot of sermonizing. The strongest point was it wasn't too long.

CARLSON: It was a fairly non-substantive speech full of platitudes but -- and he didn't get to the bridge until minute 20.

NOVAK: Thank goodness.

SHIELDS: C-minus?

CARLSON: Thank God. I'd say -- I'd say, I don't know, a B- minus, an average student speech.

O'BEIRNE: I think it was a silly speech. You want to be forgiven for forgetting that he was only being sworn in as president of the United States. I mean he promised to lead us into the Promised Land, so much for talking about humility. He flunks.

HUNT: It was a speech for the '90s, Mark, with all the good things that connotes and many of the bad things that connotes. There weren't any choices. There weren't any sacrifices.

SHIELDS: The racial reconciliation was the strongest part of it. The speech itself smacked too much of having been written by a committee that it did not have a single theme or that memorable phrase. I'd be with Margaret, I think B-minus.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I know your disdain for sermons. How would you compare Bill Clinton's second inaugural address to George Bush's second inaugural address?

SHIELDS: Well, this was not a memorable speech. It was -- I think you said yourself it was put together by a committee. It was a hodgepodge. It didn't go anywhere.

As we said earlier on this program, the Bush speech was a well- written, interesting speech. I thought it was the right way to go. We can debate but this was one of the weaker ones four years ago.

SHIELDS: Ramesh.

NOVAK: I'm sorry, eight years ago.

PONNURU: Well, I mean as Al said, you know it was a very 1990 speech that Clinton gave and we live in I think weightier times, as opposed to the sabbatical that we were on, as somebody said, during the 1990s an it showed in that speech.

SHIELDS: The president said that.

PONNURU: That's right and it showed in that speech. The president, you know, President Clinton the thing I remember from that speech is when he said nothing big ever came from being small. You know that's not an idea that you're going to debate the way we are still debating what the president said.


HUNT: Well, certainly if you're going to judge the two speeches by which was bolder, Bush wins quite easily.


HUNT: Bob gave the Clinton speech a C-minus and on substance I gather from what he said earlier that if Bush meant what he said he would have given Bush a D or an F, so I guess Bob would have put...

NOVAK: Well, hey, don't give me -- don't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for me.

HUNT: Oh, correct me then.

NOVAK: I thought I would give that on delivery, if you believe in that stuff...

HUNT: Not enough substance.

NOVAK: A. I just don't -- I just don't agree with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's all.

SHIELDS: No, but how about the substance? What would you give him in substance the Bush speech on substance?

NOVAK: Well, there was no substance in the Clinton speech.

HUNT: We're talking of Bush's speech. You already gave me Clinton. That's the point I was making.

NOVAK: I didn't agree with the...

HUNT: So, a D or an F, I was right?

NOVAK: No, I didn't -- I didn't -- I gave it...

HUNT: On substance?

NOVAK: I gave it an A. I gave the speech an A.

SHIELDS: No, you didn't.

HUNT: I don't think he's going to -- this is a rare time Bob Novak's not going to answer.

SHIELDS: I've never heard him be evasive before.

Next on THE CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at Iran with Ray Takeyh on the Council of Foreign Relations.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

In the "New Yorkers," reporter Seymour Hersh wrote that United States commandos have already conducted secret intelligence gathering missions inside Iran to plan for potential future air strikes.


SEYMOUR HERSH, "THE NEW YORKER": Normally, we'd be looking at Iran we'd only have to come in through the Gulf. Now we can hit Iran from Afghanistan and from Iraq. The fact is that we are operating right now in and out of Iran. We are collecting intelligence.


SHIELDS: The official response from Iranian state radio: "The entry of American commandos is not that easy and believing this story would be naive."


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: We are sending a message. The world is sending a message to Iran that Iran cannot be a legitimate participant in international -- in the international system, international policies and pursue a nuclear weapon.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look around the world at potential trouble spots, Iran's right at the top of the list. One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked. The Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.


SHIELDS: Joining us now is Ray Takeyh, a Senior Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. Thanks for coming in Ray.

Thanks for having me.

SHIELDS: Ray, was President Dick Cheney giving a green light to Israel?


SHIELDS: Vice President Dick Cheney giving a green light to Israel for a potential attack, a preemptive strike on Iran?

TAKEYH: Well, if he was, he was giving it to the wrong party because most serious military analysts don't think that Israel has the capacity, logistical capacity to conduct this operation.

It's important to recognize that we're talking about not a military strike but military strikes conducted over a period of time, maybe even a prolonged period of time.

Iranian facilities are dispersed. They're nationwide. They're hardened and in some cases they're urbanized. This is logistically a rather complex operation. I'm not even sure if the United States is capable of doing it but I just don't believe Israelis can do it. This would be a very different operation than the 1981 strike on Iraq, which was one transparent above-the-ground facility. SHIELDS: Just a quick thought, what do you think Cheney was saying then?

TAKEYH: Well, I think this is part of an attempt to build up the psychological pressure on Iran at the time when they're negotiating with the Europeans for them to be perhaps more flexible in terms of their acceptance of the inspection regime and in terms of the checks on the nuclear program. But I don't think it's a serious attempt to militarily intervene or give Israelis the green light to do so.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: What do you make of the Sy Hersh article? His sources are extensive. I mean he's saying two things that we have commandos in there and we're getting ready to have air strikes. Do you take that seriously?

TAKEYH: Well, I think Iran is a heavily surveyed country at this point. I mean it's always been the subject of satellite surveys and aerial surveys. Iran has always complained that American planes are coming over their territory.

It seems to me it's far-fetched to believe that American commandos are on the ground because you can use Kurdish tribal people and the (UINTELLIGIBLE) and so on. To put American troops on the ground in Iran would be a rather risky operation, if there's casualties, if there's fatalities, if there's that sort of a confrontation. But, you know, everybody has denied the story the Washington (UNINTELLIGIBLE), so there must be something to it.


HUNT: Ray, I was hoping you would tell us a little bit about what the European attitude toward Iran is. They sometimes seem to be more interested in vindicating a kind of distinctive European approach to foreign policy than in solving this problem. How tough are they prepared to be?

TAKEYH: The deal that's been crafted between the Europeans and the Iranians that's being negotiated now is actually rather an intrusive deal in terms of the technological prohibitions. Should Iranians comply with this deal, then a nuclear program effectively comes to a standstill.

Now, whether they will comply or not remains to be seen. Whether the Europeans will insist on their compliance remains to be seen. One thing that they Europeans have said, all of them, that this is a problem that has to be resolved diplomatically and there is no military solution to it.

As a matter of fact, Jack Straw said, the foreign secretary, the British foreign secretary, America's closest ally, that Britain will not accept a military strike on this particular -- on this particular installation at this time.

And also the critical actor in this that people don't always look at is actually Mr. El-Baradei, the head of the IAEA. If he says what he continues to say that there is no indication that Iranians have misused their nuclear facilities or their nuclear supplies for military purposes, there is no evidence that this program is militarizing, so long as he says that it is hard to have international consensus behind a more robust approach to Iran. So, people focus on the Europeans but the critical actor is the IAEA at this point.


HUNT: Yes, Ray, as we just noted Sy Hersh has a pretty good track record of being right even when he's denied or stories he writes have been denied. But let me ask you another question.

Put yourself in the shoes of the Iranians and the people we think that are calling the shots in Iran right now. With all of this, whether it's bluff or real coming from the American government, with a Shia government about to probably take over in Iraq, how does Iran view the situation right now do you think?

TAKEYH: Well, it's a combination. It's a sort of paradoxical combination because, on the one side you can argue that Iran's practical, tangible security has improved, in a sense two historical nemesis of Iran, Afghanistan and the Taliban and Saddam in Iraq are no longer there and whatever type of government emerges in Iraq with the Shia representation is likely to be better for Iranians than the predecessor.

Yet, in terms of the psychology of it, Iranians' sense of their insecurity has intensified because of sort of an augmented presence of the United States on the periphery and because of the sort of rhetoric that is at times coming out of Washington and the doctrine of preemption as a tool of counter proliferation, the idea of regime change as a means of disarmament. Now, that's -- if you're an Iranian national security planner, that is a rather serious challenge to you.

HUNT: So how does it make them -- how does it change their behavior?

TAKEYH: Well, it makes the idea of nuclear hedging even more attractive because at a time when you perceive yourself under threat, when you perceive your practical security concerns under threat, the idea of giving in the totality of your nuclear arsenal is not a persuasive argument I suspect within the corridors of power in Iran.

SHIELDS: Ray Takeyh, thank you so much for being with us.

TAKEYH: Thanks for having me.

SHIELDS: And we appreciate it. And the gang will be back with our "Outrages of the Week."


SHIELDS: And now for the "Outrages of the Week."

Democrats like to call themselves the tolerant party; however, that tolerance was never extended to the millions of Democrats who are pro-life. Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger, openly pro-choice, were featured at the Republican convention. No pro-life Democrat made it to prime time in Boston.

Maybe Democrats are finally waking up. Two pro-choice California House Democrats Anna Eshoo and Ellen Tauscher broke ranks to defend pro-life DNC candidate Tim Roemer. Senate campaign chief Chuck Schumer from New York is recruiting pro-life Pennsylvania State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr. to run against Senator Rick Santorum in 2006. Maybe defeat can be a good teacher -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The joy of Republicans pouring into Washington for George W. Bush's second inauguration was diminished by excessive security. For officials charged with protecting the entire U.S. government there is no such word as excessive but was it necessary to close streets long after the president was in the vicinity to close the plaza in front of the Capitol so that even Congressmen could not walk there, to fingerprint journalists and cameramen at the parade reviewing stand? The oppressive security made it seem as though the terrorists had scored a victory in America.

SHIELDS: Ramesh.

PONNURU: Why don't more women succeed in math and science careers? Harvard President Lawrence Summers cited one possible reason, innate differences between men and women. Women tend to score in the middle on science tests. Men are more likely to score either very well or very badly.

One professor walked out of Summers' talk saying it made her feel sick. Now, the feminist group wants him to quit. He has issued several apologies, each more groveling than the last. Open discussions and scientific inquiry have lost a battle at Harvard.


HUNT: One of the problems of the 9/11 failure was catastrophically outdated FBI computers, so Congress gave the bureau a blank check to fix it. After $170 million, the new system doesn't work. The company given the contract was Science Applications International Corp. which also bungled sweetheart deals it got in Iraq. Why this company? Do you think it might have something to do with the fact it has been a big campaign contributor, especially to Republicans and has top administration cronies on the board?

SHIELDS: Oh, the cynicism.

This is Mark Shields saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next, CNN's, 25 innovations that have defined the news in the last quarter century.

At 9:00 p.m., "LARRY KING LIVE" Deepak Chopra discusses spirituality in times of war and terrorism.

And, at 10:00 p.m., CNN's continuing team coverage of the East Coast blizzard.

Thank you for joining us.


BUSH: So help me God.

REHNQUIST: Congratulations.



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